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British Defense Ministry: Russia continues to recruit prisoners for war, despite risks to communities upon their return

Russian lawmakers are sounding the alarm over potential increases in crime as ex-prisoners recruited to fight in Ukraine return to their communities.
Russian soldiers.
Russian soldiers. Illustrative photo. Credit: Euronews
British Defense Ministry: Russia continues to recruit prisoners for war, despite risks to communities upon their return

The British Defense Ministry reported on 26 May that Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office has ceased publishing official crime statistics since January 2023, likely due in part to rising violent crimes committed by former prisoners returning from combat in Ukraine.

In April 2024, the Russian media outlet Verstka reported that at least 107 Russians were killed and another 100 seriously injured by returning war veterans.

According to the Defense Ministry, the Russian government is persisting with its policy of recruiting prisoners to fight in Ukraine despite growing concerns about the potential impact on public safety when these individuals return home

Several Russian Duma deputies have voiced alarm over the threats posed by ex-prisoners who have served in the armed forces in Ukraine.

Nina Ostanina, head of the Duma committee on family, parenthood, motherhood and childhood protection, told the Russian publication Gazeta that “there will be more crimes because these former prisoners are not socialized.”

Ostanina argued that “former prisoners should be under constant control of law enforcement agencies, and society should be protected from such people.”

Russian media have reported on several high-profile cases involving pardoned war participants in April, with BBC’s Russian service noting earlier this year that Russian prisoners who went to fight against Ukraine are now receiving conditional release instead of pardons from President Vladimir Putin and are required to serve until the end of the war.

The UK intel reported that the Russian government appears willing to continue this practice to maintain its war effort in Ukraine.

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